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62. The twelve sent out (Matthew 10:5-42; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6)
Jesus sent out the twelve apostles to preach the good news that the kingdom of the Messiah had come. The miraculous powers of the Messiah were given to them also, so that the knowledge of his love and mercy might spread more quickly throughout the land (Luke 9:1-2).
There would be no time during Jesus’ lifetime to spread the gospel worldwide, so the apostles had to concentrate on Israel. After Jesus’ death and resurrection they could then take the gospel to the countries beyond (Matthew 10:5-8; cf. 28:19-20). They were to take with them only the bare necessities for daily needs, so as not to be hindered in their travels. Also they were not to waste time preaching to people who refused to listen, when others in nearby areas had not even heard (Matthew 10:9-15; Luke 9:3-6).
Although they preached good news and did good works, the apostles could expect persecution. If brought to trial, whether before Jewish leaders or government officials, they would have the help of God’s Spirit in giving them the right words to say (Matthew 10:16-20). They would meet opposition from friends and relatives, but they were to press on urgently in their mission. They would not even cover the whole of Palestine within the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matthew 10:21-23).
As servants of Jesus, the apostles could expect the same sort of opposition as their master received (Matthew 10:24-25), but they were not to fear to teach publicly the things Jesus had taught them privately (Matthew 10:26-27). They were to maintain a reverent obedience to God, knowing that as their heavenly Father he would watch over them. He never forsakes those who are faithful to him (Matthew 10:28-33).
The followers of Jesus must not expect ease and comfort. They must put loyalty to Jesus before all other loyalties, and this may result in conflict and division, even within their own families. They must be prepared for hardship, persecution and possibly death, but in the end they will not be the losers. In sacrificing the life of self-pleasing in order to please their Lord, they will find life in its truest sense (Matthew 10:34-39). All who welcome Jesus’ messengers into their homes are really welcoming Jesus who sent them, and God the Father who sent him. Help given to Jesus’ messengers will be rewarded as if given to Jesus himself (Matthew 10:40-42).
64. Death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9)
By this time John the Baptist had been executed. When Herod heard the news of Jesus’ miracles, he feared that Jesus was really John come back to life and that supernatural powers were working in him (Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16). (The Herod referred to here was Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great; see earlier section, ‘The New Testament World’.)
Having mentioned John’s death, the writers go back to record the events that led up to it. Herod had imprisoned John because John had accused him of adultery in marrying Herodias, wife of Herod’s brother, Philip (Mark 6:17-18; cf. Matthew 4:12; Matthew 11:2). Herod both respected and feared John, as he knew that John was a godly man and that his accusations were true. But no amount of discussion with John could persuade Herod to conquer his passions and give up Herodias (Mark 6:19-20).
John’s place of imprisonment was apparently the dungeon of Herod’s palace. Although this gave Herod the opportunity to speak to him often, it also made it easier for Herodias when an opportunity arose for her to get rid of him. She hated John for his interference, and was quick to act when she saw the chance to have him executed (Mark 6:21-29).
65. Feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14)
When the apostles returned from their first tour around the country areas, they met Jesus in Galilee and tried to have a quiet time alone with him (Mark 6:30-32; John 6:1). Jesus also was in need of a rest, but he was filled with pity when he saw the crowds of people flocking to him in their need. They appeared to him as a flock of spiritually starved sheep that had no food because there was no shepherd to feed them (Mark 6:33-34; John 6:2-4).
The apostles were soon reminded that Jesus alone could satisfy the spiritual needs of the people. Without him the apostles were not able to satisfy even the people’s physical needs. With five small loaves and two fish, Jesus miraculously fed a huge crowd, reminding the apostles that the miracles they had done on their missionary tour had resulted solely from Jesus’ power working in them (Mark 6:35-44; John 6:5-13). But to many of the people, the miracle was a sign that Jesus was the promised great prophet. Like Moses, he had miraculously fed God’s people in the wilderness (John 6:14; see Exodus 16:1-36; Deuteronomy 18:15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-5).
73. Peter’s confession of the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-23; Mark 8:27-33; Luke 9:18-22)
Jesus and the apostles travelled up to Caesarea Philippi, in the far north of Palestine. While there, Jesus asked the apostles who they believed him to be. Peter, probably speaking for the group, replied that he was the promised Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16:13-16).
Delighted at this insight, Jesus told the group (through words addressed to their spokesman Peter) that they would be the foundation on which he would build his church, and no power would be able to conquer it (Matthew 16:17-18; cf. Ephesians 2:20). By preaching the gospel they would open the kingdom to all who wished to enter. They would carry Jesus’ authority with them, so that the things they did on earth in his name would be confirmed in heaven (Matthew 16:19; cf. Acts 2:32; Acts 3:6,Acts 3:16,Acts 3:19). But that was still in the future. For the present they were to support him in his ministry, but they were not to proclaim his messiahship openly till the appointed time had come (Matthew 16:20).
Jesus then made it clear that in order to fulfil his messianic ministry, he had to suffer, die and rise again. Peter’s objection to this showed that the apostles still did not understand the true nature of the Messiah’s work. The suggestion that Jesus should turn back from the cross was yet another temptation by Satan. It was an attempt to persuade him to gain his kingdom by some way other than death, and so cause him to fail in the very thing he came to do (Matthew 16:21-23; cf. 4:8-10).
74. Test of true discipleship (Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-9:1; Luke 9:23-27)
Immediately after telling his disciples of his coming suffering and death, Jesus told them they had to be prepared for similar treatment. The disciples of Jesus are those who have given their lives to Jesus, and they will be obedient to their master even if it leads to hardship, persecution and death. They will no longer rule their own lives, but will deny themselves personal desires in order to please Jesus. In sacrificing the life that puts self first, they will find the only true life. On the other hand those who live for themselves may gain what they want in the present world, but they will lose the only life of lasting value, eternal life (Matthew 16:24-27).
Jesus promised his disciples that those who accompanied him in his ministry would, in their present lifetime, see something of the triumph of the Son of man’s glorious kingdom. This was possibly a reference to the victorious expansion of the church after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1). (For the significance of the name ‘Son of man’, see earlier section, ‘Jesus and the Kingdom’.)
75. The transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36)
Jesus’ transfiguration took place on a high mountain, possibly Mount Hermon, which was not far from Caesarea Philippi. The event was a revelation of Christ’s glory and was witnessed by only three chosen apostles. In coming into the world as a human being, Jesus had laid his divine glory aside, but now it reappeared briefly through a human body. It gave an indication of the glory he would receive after he had finished the work he came to do (Matthew 17:1-2; Luke 9:28-29).
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus during his transfiguration, possibly to symbolize that the law and the prophets found their fulfilment in him. He was the one to whom the entire Old Testament pointed. They talked with Jesus about his coming death, confirming what Jesus had recently told the apostles. The Messiah had to die before he could enter his glory (Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30-31).
The apostles were confused about what was happening, but the Father’s voice from heaven told them that it was an expression of his satisfaction with the entire ministry of Jesus. By combining words from one of David’s psalms with words from one of Isaiah’s servant songs, God declared that the kingly Messiah would lay down his life as the suffering servant. This Messiah was also God’s prophet, and people were to listen to his message (Matthew 17:4-5; Luke 9:32-35; cf. Psalms 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Deuteronomy 18:15,Deuteronomy 18:18; Acts 3:22).
When the transfiguration was over and Jesus’ appearance returned to normal, he again told the apostles that they were not yet to reveal what they had learnt (Matthew 17:6-9; Luke 9:36). The vision of Elijah prompted the apostles to ask if Elijah would come before the Messiah. If Jesus was the Messiah, why had Elijah not come? Jesus replied that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah, but just as people rejected the Messiah’s forerunner so would they reject the Messiah (Matthew 17:10-13).
76. Healing of an uncontrollable boy (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43)
While the faith of the three apostles on the mountain was being strengthened, the faith of the other nine on the plain below was failing. They were unable to cure a boy who suffered from sudden fits that made him uncontrollable (Mark 9:14-18). After the heavenly experiences on the mountain, Jesus felt the frustration of work in a world that was full of human failure (Mark 9:19). Nevertheless, he did not despise the uncertain faith that the boy’s father expressed, and he quickly healed the boy (Mark 9:20-27).
The reason for the disciples’ failure was their lack of faith. What they needed was not a large amount of faith but the right kind of faith. They needed a faith that relied completely upon the unlimited capacity of the all-powerful God and that expressed itself through sincere prayer (Matthew 17:20-21; Mark 9:28-29).
78. Lessons in humility (Matthew 17:22-23; Matthew 18:1-14; Mark 9:30-50; Luke 9:44-50)
Despite Jesus’ statement to his disciples that he was heading towards humiliating suffering and death (Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:44-45), they were arguing among themselves about who would have the important places in his kingdom. Jesus rebuked them, explaining that the way to spiritual greatness is through choosing the lowest place and serving others. To enter the kingdom of God, people must humbly accept that they have no more status than a child. Receiving Christ is not concerned with prestige as in the case of those who receive an earthly king. It is as humble an act as receiving a small child (Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48).
If people want to be disciples of Jesus, they should not despise those who appear weak and insignificant. Indeed, they should take severe action against themselves to remove from their lives anything that might cause them to follow their own desires instead of submitting to Jesus. Wrong desires prevent people from receiving Jesus and lead only to hell (Matthew 18:6-9; Mark 9:42-48). God will test and cleanse the disciples, but if they want to be useful for him in leading people to Jesus, they must cease their quarrelling and make sure that they themselves are pure in heart (Mark 9:49-50).
Jesus’ disciples should have a loving concern for the weak, the helpless and the lost. They should not want any to miss out on his salvation (Matthew 18:10-14). They must love others, and not act like those who tried to stop a man from casting out demons in Jesus’ name because he did not belong to Jesus’ apostolic group. The man feared God, and God used him to deliver people from the power of evil. He was not an enemy of Jesus, and the apostles were not to despise him or hinder him in his work. If people do acts of kindness to others, and do them with the right motives, God will reward them no matter how insignificant those acts may appear to be (Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50).
THROUGH SAMARIA TO JUDEA
80. Rejected in Samaria (Luke 9:51-56)
Jesus left Galilee and headed for Jerusalem. He knew that Jerusalem was the place where his work would finish, but first he had much to do in Samaria, Judea and certain areas east of Jordan.
The Samaritans had for centuries been enemies of the Jews, and hated the Jews’ passing through their territory on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus wanted to be friendly with them but they did not want his friendship (Luke 9:51-53). In return James and John wanted God to destroy the Samaritans. Their request showed that they still knew little of the immeasurable love that Jesus had for rebellious sinners (Luke 9:54-56).
81. The cost of being a disciple (Matthew 8:18-22; Luke 9:57-62)
Three men came to Jesus saying they wanted to be disciples, but they did not realize the sacrifices they would have to make in following Jesus. The first man was told to think seriously about his professed intentions, because following Jesus would bring with it physical hardship and discomfort (Luke 9:57-58). The second was warned that responsibilities towards Jesus must come before ordinary worldly responsibilities. The spiritually dead, whose interests are only in this life, can look after the everyday matters of life; the disciples of Jesus have to attend to the more important business of the kingdom of God (Luke 9:59-60). The third man was warned that Jesus’ disciples must give themselves to him completely. There is no place for those whose real interests are elsewhere (Luke 9:61-62).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Luke 9". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24